Southern Kelp Crab
Taliepus nuttallii

Physical Description

  • Large, rounded, smooth shell with front triangular, sharp rostrum
  • Long, spindly legs and large front claws
  • They often camouflage themselves by attaching bits of algae, sponges, bryozoans, or small animals to their long legs
  • Coloration ranges from dark reddish-brown to dark purple to yellow-orange
  • Male can reach 3.6 inches and female can reach 1.8 inches in shell diameter


  • Santa Barbara, California to Magdalena Bay, Baja California, Mexico


  • Rocky intertidal habitats, among the algae
  • Offshore in kelp beds
  • Sometimes in the surfgrass
  • Depths of up to 300 feet


  • Mainly algae, especially brown algae
  • Giant kelp, feather boa kelp


  • Giant Sea Star, Kellet’s whelk

Interesting Facts

  • Also called the globose kelp crab
  • They often molt their shells to rid themselves of unwanted shell adornments like barnacles or moss
  • The algae, sponges, and bryozoans, they attach as camouflage can also act as defense mechanisms because they can taste bad to predators

Sources:; Cabrillo National Monument; Ambrose 1986

Photo: Rocio Gajon Bunker

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